SURREY — It’s a description which has become so over-used that it almost seems like a common cliché.
Yet if you asked the basketball gods for their truest definition of a gym rat, they would tell you it’s actually an uncommon term, one reserved for those who truly embrace every second of their existence as basketball players.
Or, to save some time, they might choose instead to tell you the story of Vlad Mihaila, the 6-foot-5 senior scoring guard with Surrey’s Semiahmoo Totems.
“He has all of the talents that everyone can see,” admitted Fraser Valley Cascades’ head coach Adam Friesen, who on Tuesday officially welcomed the 6-foot-5 shot maker as part of the school’s incoming Class of 2018 recruits. “But with him, it’s also what everyone else doesn’t see. It’s his love of the game, how much he enjoys the game, and his goal of being willing to work to help take this group to bigger things. That is a great trait.”
Mihaila, along with Adam Paige, the 6-foot-7 forward and Alberta Golden Bears recruit, were the engine room of a Semiahmoo team which last month lost to the Burnaby South Rebels in the B.C. senior boys Quad-A championship final at the Langley Events Centre.
Mihaila, who averaged 26.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game this past season, will be joined by Abbotsford-W.J. Mouat forward Dhivaan Bhogal in the UFV freshman class.
Mihaila, who admits that his five-year high school basketball career went by faster than he could have imagined, says he is determined to savour every second of the five years he has coming within the cozy confines of his new home at UFV’s Envision Athletic Centre.
“My five years in high school went by in the blink of an eye and so the one thing I will do at the university level is never take any of my time there for granted,” said Mihaila. “At U Sports, we’re only guaranteed 20 games per season over the course of five years. That’s only 100 games, so I have to leave it all on the floor.”
Now that is a gym rat talking.
“I appreciate that term because when I first started playing, I wasn’t the best, but I got into the gym and made it my priority to outwork people,” continues Mihaila who has made two-to-three training sessions in the gym per day his year-long norm.
“The number one thing I considered was my development,” he adds when asked about what he was looking for in a university program. “It was about where I could go so I could be my best after five years, because my end goal is to play professional basketball. Coaches Friesen and (assistant coach Trevor) Pridie are both super dedicated and they love to be in the gym, too.”
Mihaila is joining a team which returns completely intact from last season, and it’s a growing group which knows it has something to prove after missing the Canada West playoffs.
“Both Vlad and Dhivaan know a good chunk of this team already, there is a lot of local talent here,” says Friesen of a Cascades’ team which went 5-15 this past season. “We had a challenging year, but everyone is hungry to grow and make that jump and I know Vlad and Dhivaan are just as eager.”
For his part, Mihaila has always been one to set clear career goals and then work hard to achieve them.
As both he and Paige hit the high school ranks at Semiahmoo five seasons ago, they schemed and dreamed of one day playing together on the same university team.
And although that didn’t happen, it hasn’t changed the longterm goals of either player to win national titles at the university level.
“When we were in Grade 11, we had plans to go together to a certain school,” begins Mihaila, “but as time went on, it was hard for us to find the school that fit both of us. It was difficult to find a fit. We’ll play against each other now, but we’ll still be best friends off the court.”
His immediate future?
“It’s definitely a goal to win nationals,” he says of his impending UFV career, “but the focus has to be on taking each year as it comes because we had a young team last year and there is a lot of developing to do.
“If all goes as planned, I want to try to get a pro contract in Europe,” says Mihaila, who holds both Canadian and Romanian citizenship. “After that, I am planning on becoming a PE teacher. I’ll come back with my degree and my dream is to coach at Semiahmoo.”
Where he’ll no doubt inspire the next generation of gym rats.
Next week: The story Dhivaan Bhogal, another of UFV’s marquee men’s basketball recruits.
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